Friday, 27 February 2009

THE BATTLE


Band: URUK HAI
Title: The Battle
Format: CD on Drama Company (Spain), 2005 (no catalogue reference) and part of the compilation cassette tape "The Battle/A Viking's Journey" on A.M.F. (Bulgaria), AMF043, in 2006.
Edition: CD in unnumbered pressing of 1000, cassette in hand-numbered edition of 500

Track Listing:

Tape & CD edition
1. The Battle (Introduction to War)
2. Calm After Storm (Blood on the Battlefield)
3. Thunderpower (Praying to the Gods of War)
4. Poem to the Dead (Remember the Fallen Heroes)
5. Icy Winds Over the Battlefield (The Dead Become Einherjer)
6. Strength and Honour (Preparing for Battle)
7. Rabensang (The Blackwinged Messengers)
8. And the Battle Continue (Only War is Real)
9. The Secret of Steel (The Price of Each Battle)

CD bonus track
10. Black Mountains River (Midgard Warriors Pt.2)

I recall buying this CD, pointedly titled "The Battle", and thinking to myself "well, we're in for some pagan battle music here with plenty of samples, blood and guts drumming, vocal overkill and the works." Or some euphemistic thoughts on a similar vein.

What this album delivers is very different - possibly the most laid-back and serene album that Alex had put his name to as Uruk Hai at this point. It must have been a bit confusing for any newbies buying the album on the basis of the title, expecting a mix of gung-ho epic swordplay mixed with a bit of black metal!

Despite the powerful descriptive names of some of the tracks - and you can't tell me that "Thunderpower" and "The Secret of Steel" would lead you to assume some ethereal noodling would follow - this is very piano-based, ambient music. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, it's what the man specialises in after all, but it came rather against expectations for this release and as a result it didn't gel with me first time around.

Over time, of course, you can play it in context and enjoy it for what it is - and what it is is a heavy-on-the-keyboard (both synth and piano) journey across far-flung battle fields after most of the blood-letting has occured and the victors have long left.

A wiser man than I once commented in Metal Archive in respect of another Uruk Hai release:

"...Ambient music is a difficult kind of music, it can be listened only in particular moments, or can be played as a ‘background’. There aren’t other ways to enjoy it; you can’t listen to an ambient album and expect to have fun or whistle along the melody or do headbanging as you can do with a power metal work or Motorhead. You must be in a special kind of mood, have the will to use your imagination intensively and for long minutes, and nothing less of that; or you can put it as a background and let it create an atmosphere for the room you are in..."

and this album proves the fact perfectly. I could imagine many people might buy it, listen to it once (maybe twice if they were keen) but conclude thereafter that there was nothing to hum, nothing to whistle, nothing to drag them back to the music. I sit on the fence a bit with this CD, as to an extent it does wash over you unless you are prepared to purposely set aside an hour, sit and actually listen to the pieces and let your imagination do the hard work. In these days of high pressure jobs and limited time to relax, not always the easiest thing to do, and I'm just as guilty for not finding quality time as the next guy.

But give it a go: it's a good album when listening to in the way intended....

A word on the bonus track - I'm of the opinion that the final actual track "The Secret Of Steel" must be very short and the bonus track tacked onto the end of it as track 9 on the CD, as my disc plays up to track 88 (!) yet there is no additional music between tracks 10-88 before it loops to track 1 again. Most odd.

I will cover the tape pressing of this release as a separate blog, in case you're wondering where the picture and other details are...!

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